It is my third birthday party and all of my friends and family are with me in our backyard. My relatives, specifically the older ones, are swarming around me, extending happy birthday wishes to me and pinching my cheeks. My friends are running around, having a good time and eating the cake that has just been brought out. Suddenly, from the front yard of my house appears Simba the lion, of the Disney movie, Lion King. I now know that this Simba was simply two clowns dressed in a costume. Simba came into the backyard and just as he moved into the center of the party my father picked me up and put me on Simba’s back
One of the reasons why I have a memory of an event that took place at such an early age, and one which is so vivid in detail, might be due to the fact that my parents have told me about it repeatedly. This may have caused me to create a false memory and to think of it as my own. This process, by which outside information is acquired and affects or even creates a memory, is called interference, as is mentioned in the article, Eyewitness Testimony, and Assassination Research. In this article it is shown that interference was the main reason for the more than 400 different eyewitness testimonies of the shooting of JFK.
Another reason why the aforementioned birthday party is my earliest memory might be because it was such a happy memory that I valued it tremendously and therefore revisited/remembered it often. As Susan Engle writes, “memories that one used often tend to be recalled better than those to which one rarely refers (Engel 5). Since Simba was my favorite Disney character, I constantly revisited that memory and by doing so, I made that memory so strong that, even now, sixteen years later, it remains with me, as opposed to other events which happened in that same time frame and of which I have no recollection.
Additionally, this memory might remain with me, due to the fact that it is an episodic memory, as mentioned in Daniel Schachter’s writing Searching for Memory an episodic memory “allows us explicitly to recall the personal incidents that uniquely define our lives” (Schachter 17). At the time of the event I was being treated with love and respect by everyone present and as I was seated atop Simba I felt superior to everyone who was there. Adults and children alike approached me and all were expected to say “happy birthday” and to hand presents to me. In my mind I was the envy of all of my friends. I knew that they were amazed to see me sitting on the lion and it made me feel as if I was the most important person in the world.
The memory of this birthday party could well be the defining moment of my life because it fits in with my egocentric personality. And I felt then, as I do now, that I was entitled to all of that attention. It is possible that I subconsciously look for and wish to receive that same level of love, respect and admiration in my life today.
1) Dennis Ford and Mark Zaid, Eyewitness Testimony, and Assasination Research
, website, 1993, http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/zaid.htm
2) Susan Engel, Where Memory Begins, Book,1996
3) Daniel schachter, Searching for memory, Book